It is not about framing misogyny as empowerment

Meghan Murphy explains some things about feminism.

When I started blogging, back in 2010, I was, admittedly, naive about the deep divides that exist between liberal and radical feminists. I still struggle with how to name those divides properly. I refer to those who refuse to make obvious connections between various forms of violence against women and who work to decontexualize our collective subordination as “liberal feminists,” “sex-positive feminists,” or “third-wave feminists,” never wholly sure of the most accurate label.

I realize this is because what I actually believe is that, if you can’t (or won’t) connect the dots between prostitution, pornography, rape culture, sexual harassment, objectification, femicide, colonization, domestic abuse and, more generally, female subordination, you are not a part of this movement — the feminist one. In other words, it’s not that you’re doing it wrong, it’s that you’re not doing it at all.

Feminism is a real thing. It means something. It is a particular analysis. It is not whatever any individual says it is or wants it to be. It is not “inclusive.” It is not everything nor should it be — if feminism is everything then it is nothing. It is not about framing misogyny as empowerment because it makes us feel better. It is a movement. It is political. It is what we call the woman-led fight to end patriarchy and male violence against women.

I was talking about that yesterday, in disagreeing with Aaron Kappel’s piece. Feminism isn’t so “inclusive” that it’s about men, not even “nonbinary” or “genderqueer” men. It’s about women, just as anti-racism movements are not (and should not be) about white people.

Murphy found herself shut out of journalism when she started, because she’s not the right kind of feminist.

The sites that were dominating the conversation around feminism and the women who worked for these sites were not, in fact, “helping other women” — they were helping their friends, friends who held the same political ideology, who thought prostitution was fun and cool, who didn’t dare question the party line, who could afford to hang about in New York City on their parent’s dime, shmoozing with those who held the reigns to the tightly-knit New York media cabal. They were heavily invested in attacks on the second wave and in promoting a marketable version of “feminism” that supported capitalism, boobs, and boners.

If that’s the feminism of the future, y’all are screwed.

At first I thought it was all in my head, but it wasn’t. I’d been blackballed. My words had broken the unspoken rule all young female journalists and writers were to follow: keep it light, keep it sexy, don’t dare to move beyond the Twitter mantras that passed for “feminism” these days. If you want to write about “whorephobia” and “slut-shaming,”great. Even better if you can write about how radical Slutwalk is and point to all the “agency” of your white, rich “sex worker” friends. But to say anything else was to bite the hands that feed you. Liberal feminists and sex industry advocates had become one in the same and the media reflected that.

It makes sense, I suppose. Sex industry advocacy is obviously more likely to be profitable than its opposite is. Journalism doesn’t pay for itself you know.

There are millions more who are far less privileged than I and so it amuses me (in a rather ragey way) to see young, middle class, American women blathering on about “privilege” and “marginalized voices” on Twitter within the safety and comfort of their family money, Ivy League educations, fancy internships, and gifted property. It’s no mere coincidence that these women and men are the same ones who write articles for Playboy and Jezebel about how empowering “sex work” is and call anyone who disagrees a variety of names that all amount to anti-feminist cliches about “prudes” and “man-haters.” (We hear you — you love dick. That’s not a politic. That’s something insecure 19-year-olds say because they want to be cool.)

So we have an in-crowd that consists mostly of privileged, American, liberal women, based in New York, who have turned cronyism into “feminism,” rejected women who question the patriarchal and capitalist status quo, and have turned words like “diversity,” “inclusivity,” and “privilege” into media careers.

If that’s true, it explains a lot.

It’s no accident that the actual feminist movement (not the Playboy Feminism, as I coined it recently in New Statesman, increasingly shoved down our throats) is under attack, erased and misrepresented by the liberal and even leftist media. It’s no accident that our work — women’s work, the work of the movement — is carefully removed from discourse by women already on the inside or women who are desperately trying to get in. It’s no coincidence that women who speak out against male violence are no-platformed, attacked, vilified, slandered, and have their employment threatened.

The new erasure is the same as the old, but this time they’re calling it “feminism.” A kind of “feminism” that is not only detached from the global feminist movement, but that actively works against it. That supports “diversity” but not a diversity of ideas. A kind of feminism that attacks radical women, only to turn around and sell books that regurgitate the arguments we were making all along (but minus the credit). A genius Con if there ever was one.

I really don’t like the kind of feminism that attacks radical women. Radical women are what’s needed.

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